28 December 2023

A Good Read

The Miniaturist by Jess Burton

On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen year old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of the illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt, 21 years her senior. The death of Nella’s father left the family in dire straits, saddled with unexpected debts and a declining standard of living Nella’s mother had no option but to find a suitable match for her.
Her new home, while splendid, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse, leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.
As a wedding gift to his bride Johannes acquires a cabinet, a kind of dollshouse that mirrors the Brandt home. Nella engages the services of a miniaturist, a craftsperson, to help fill the house. What she receives is far more than she expected, as the pieces reflect an unerring closeness to the people and events in the family’s life, some frighteningly so. Also, they do not always remain exactly as they were when she’d received them, and they arrive with Delphic messages. Do these tiny constructions predict the future, reflect their owners’ fears and concerns, reveal secrets, tell truths, or offer misdirections? Nella determines to find out who this mysterious miniaturist is and what is behind these small objects.

The Amsterdam of the late 17th century was a city ruled by glittering wealth and oppressive religion, a harsh, unforgiving place, where human failing and difference was not tolerated, where neighbours were encouraged to spy and report on neighbours, and where it was always a contest whether the worship of gold or god would hold sway in any given circumstance. The two domains frequently cross paths .

“It is this city. It is the years we all spend in an invisible cage, whose bars are made of murderous hypocrisy”.

The Miniaturist is very well written and Jessie Burton did a massive amount of historical research for it, which definitely enhances the read. There were some fascinating details; for example, I didn’t know that sugar was sold in tall, rounded loaves and was a huge investment item.

I did enjoy this but would have liked more background about the miniaturist, to have him/her have a significant role in the story. 
There is a follow up book "The House of Fortune" in which the miniaturist appears a few years later. Perhaps it reveals more about him/her.

∼ Happy Reading∼ 
Polly x

24 December 2023

Merry Christmas

Happy Holiday

Dear reader, I hope your holiday season is full of happiness.

∼ Be warm and well∼ 
Polly x 

22 December 2023

My Great Mince Pie Survey

Yes dear reader, once again it's my Great Mince Pie Survey!

Co-op all butter pastry mince pies
I didn't like these last year but this time I did, maybe they've changed the recipe. The pastry was tasty and firm and the filling was very nice.

M&S all butter pastry filled with vine fruits, cranberries, clementine and cognac topped with frangipane. I love frangipane, these are delicious.

M&S mini all butter pastry filled with vine fruits, cranberries, clementine and cognac. The same as above without the frangipane.

Aldi all butter pastry infused with brandy, cider and ruby port.
Very nice, tasty pie.

I haven't done very well with my survey this year. Being poorly with a cold for a week left me feeling very tired which meant I didn't get to buy as many as planned, and more disappointingly I didn't get to Waitrose for their brown butter pies. 

                          Be warm and well ∼ 
Polly x 

18 December 2023

Christmas Celebrations

My Christmas celebrations kicked off last Tuesday with a meal at a nearby restaurant with my craft club ladies. I had prawn cocktail, salmon which was delicious, with cauliflower cheese, brussels, carrots and beautiful roast potatoes, and finished with chocolate yule log.

Wednesday afternoon I made some small mince pies for my U3a do the following day. They weren't hugely successful, I discarded four of them. The U3a Christmas do was very good with assorted delicious sandwiches from M&S, mulled wine, cakes contributed by members and yummy trifle and/or profiteroles. We had quiz sheets on our tables which were fun, and we were entertained by a brilliant magician.

He turned this plain piece of paper into a £50 note, then back again! That guy on the right wasn't being rude on his phone, he was opening the camera app.

He had a ring from one of the ladies and made it disappear, then it appeared on this chain when that little red strip was burnt! His repertoire also included card tricks. 
I would love to know how they are all done. I didn't win anything in the raffle.

Last Friday I went to the carols in the Cathedral.

On Saturday I went to a fantastic "Strictly Come Dancing" party hosted by one of my village book club ladies. We all dressed in posh frocks and sparkly jewellery. Our host did a great job. We were all assigned a judge and had to hold up a score just before they did, if our score matched that of the judge we put a star on our sheet, the one with the most stars won a lovely festive head band.

The food was amazing, all homemade, B loves cooking and entertaining

her cottage is beautiful.

My bowls club Christmas meal was today, this time I had traditional turkey which was absolutely delicious and plentiful, and on Wednesday is another club's monthly meeting where will all contribute to a buffet. I will be making more mince pies tomorrow, which hopefully will be better than the last ones!

I won't be celebrating anything on Thursday, I have an appointment with the dentist for a filling!

∼ Be warm and well∼ 
Polly x 

13 December 2023

A Wonderful Read

Dewey by Vicki Myron
How much of an impact can an animal have? How many lives can one cat touch? How is it possible for an abandoned kitten to transform a small library, save a classic American town, and eventually become famous around the world? You can't even begin to answer those questions until you read the endearing story of Dewey Readmore Books, the beloved library cat of Spencer, Iowa, USA.
Dewey’s story began in January 1988. It was the coldest night of the year when someone dumped him in the night drop box of the town library. The following morning Vicki Myron, the Library Director found him under a pile of books. Only a few weeks old, he was thin, weak, trembling from the cold, and all his pads were frostbitten.

After a warm bath the tiny grey bundle turned out to be a beautiful ginger, the grey was dirt. From the moment he pulled himself up and hobbled to nudge each member of staff he won their hearts. The decision was made to keep him and he was named Dewey Readmore Books.

For the next nineteen years, he charmed the people of Spencer with his enthusiasm, warmth, humility, and, above all, his sixth sense about who needed him most.

As his fame grew from town to town, then state to state, and finally, amazingly, worldwide, Dewey became more than just a friend; he became a source of pride for an extraordinary Heartland farming town pulling its way slowly back from the greatest crisis in its history.

As well as a beautiful story about Dewey it's also a very interesting account of the struggles of Vicki's life, her parents and grandparents, and of the lives and struggles of the solid hardworking midwesterners of America's Heartland. A definite must read book.

There is a lovely video on Youtube here

∼ Happy Reading∼ 
Polly x

9 December 2023


Animals deal with winter so much better than I do - they eat a load of food then sleep through it!

There are aspects of winter that I love though - my warm padded coats, hats, gloves, scarves, arriving home on a cold wet evening and being greeted by the warmth in the house, comfort food - a bowl of tasty soup with crusty bread, stew and dumplings, and sponge puddings with custard!

Some mornings I have to steel myself to go out in the cold with Rufus

but once we're out and walking I soon warm up 

and if we have the bonus of sunshine it's lovely.

Come on Rufy, keep up.
Sometimes I think he only wants to go so far and then home for breakfast! We've recently met a gorgeous spaniel whose tail never stops wagging as he runs around following different scents. Then he runs up to Rufus and they run around together for a bit, until he detects another scent, and off he goes!

I'm finishing two quilts I started in June


and Sheriff Woody

At the moment hibernation is forced rather than choice. On Wednesday morning I felt fine, took Rufus out, had breakfast, did a bit of housework, then later in the day I started coughing and sneezing and felt very poorly. I've spent two days not getting dressed, just moved from bed to sofa!! I'm pleased to say that I'm starting to feel a bit better and today I'm dressed, but still on the sofa. 

I started a 1000 piece jigsaw

which isn't progressing very well because I haven't wanted to anything except sleep.

∼ Be warm and well ∼
Polly x

4 December 2023

Christmas Tree Festival

On Saturday was the excellent Christmas market in the Cathedral. I forgot to take photos!! but it was exactly the same as the last time I went, so I've used some of those photos.

I didn't linger long at the outdoor stalls, the weather was -2°, I was wearing my lovely warm coat but I still preferred being inside

The Rock Choir were superb

Lots of stalls selling lots of lovely things. I bought a pair of soft bamboo socks, and a tree decoration. Then had a delicious sausage roll and a cup of tea. I didn't win a raffle prize.


On Sunday I went to one of my favourite events - The Christmas Tree Festival hosted by the church in the village down the road. Local groups, shops and  individuals enter their trees. The public vote for their favourites as do the church committee, and there is a prize for the winners in each category. Lets walk round to admire more brilliant and innovative ideas.

Plot and Grow by Writtle garden and allotment society

Enchanted Cake Stand by Catch-up Cafe
with a lovely little teapot diorama

reindeer and sleigh, and a snowman

How clever is this. Studio 35 Fitmas Tree by Writtle college gym

Essex & Herts Air Ambulance by Writtle Co-op funeral directors

The cleverly named Lavatree by my village church was a celebration of the newly installed toilet!

Hart of Highwood by Highwood Primary school was absolutely beautiful,
one of my 3 favourites

Winter Fun was gorgeous, another favourite

with all these adorable figures enjoying winter activities

Read With Santa by Writtle Library Volunteers

Blesma for limbless veterans

Jam & Jerusalem by Writtle Evening WI.
My village group didn't enter this year, none of us were really enthusiastic.

The Yarn Tree by Writtle Sewing and Craft Club

The Christmas Broom by my village pre-school, another favourite

I thought it was enchanting

Bits and Pieces by Barrow Farm Riding For The Disabled is always a favourite

It's Crackers by 1st Writtle Guides

The Promised Star by 3rd Writtle Brownies

Catastrophtree by Writtle Portrait Group

Mr Crown by the Rose and Crown pub

Running The World Over by Chelmsford Rivermead Rotary Club

It was difficult choosing just one of my three favourites to vote for. The Hart of Highwood was my number one favourite but I chose my village pre-school Christmas Broom because I know the lovely lady who runs the school and she and her staff provide a first class, excellent fun and learning environment for the children.

∼ Be safe and well ∼
Polly x

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